June 27, 2006

Language documentation

Back in April, Mark drew our attention to a story on NPR's All Things Considered about Naomi Nagy's language documentation ("field methods") course at the University of New Hampshire. Here at UCSD we regularly offer a two-quarter sequence of field methods, and for the past two years the instructors and students in the course have been working with a native speaker of Moro, a language of the Sudan that in 1982 was estimated to be spoken by a mere 30,000 people. By comparison, the Kenyan language Kisii/Gusii studied by Naomi Nagy and her students at UNH was estimated to be spoken by over a million and a half people in 1994.

I offer this comparison not because I think either language is worth studying more than the other; both are underdocumented and I'm glad that this state of affairs is being remedied in both cases. I figured, however, that the work on Moro in our department was also worth profiling in the news, and so in May I arranged for our local Associate Director of Communications, Inga Kiderra, to meet with the instructors of the field methods course, Sharon Rose and Farrell Ackerman, to discuss this possibility. The story was picked up by the San Diego Union-Tribune and appeared today -- read it here. As these stories go, I think it's fairly good. Farrell summarized it nicely:

The nice thing is that the flavor of the article puts the university and department (with its emphasis on Margaret Langdon) in a good light with a balance between research and community involvement and this should be good for everyone.

Careful readers may note that the title of the story, "A way with (rare) words", is a play on the title of a locally-produced radio program, A Way With Words. Here are links to Language Log posts written about this painful little show (or just about its most prominent co-host, Richard Lederer):

Engrish explained (3/11/2006)
Collateral damage (2/20/2006)
Further evidence of declining university standards? (1/25/2006)
Special linguistic providence (10/25/2005)
The care less train has left the station (6/20/2005)
Even more etymological arguments (6/20/2005)
Locating the sarcasm bump? (5/29/2005)
So which is it? (12/14/2004)
Eggcorn and malaprop among the flowers (8/19/2004)
(Auto)biography of a blog thread (7/16/2004)
Speaking sarcastically? (7/16/2004)
If wine and stew can always, why can't toast? (7/10/2004)
Spiteful things (7/9/2004)
Still on the hook (7/9/2004)
Caring less with stress (7/8/2004)
Lederer should care less (7/8/2004)
Don't Dangle Your Participles in Public (7/7/2004)
Everything you always wanted in a language, and less (6/29/2004)
English: international and simple (6/29/2004)
The Culture of Polarization, Linguistics Style (4/2/2004)
Does "Locklear" really rhyme with "cochlear"? (12/30/2003)
Mispronunciation -- or prejudice? (12/30/2003)

(See also this post over on phonoloblog (11/6/2005).)

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at June 27, 2006 01:28 PM